Variable hours contract staff - guidance for managers


A “variable hours” contract is for posts for which there is an ongoing requirement but the actual numbers of hours are likely to vary over time. Casual contracts are for one-off, short-duration work lasting no more than 12 weeks. Casual staff would not normally be issued another contract of this type within a 12 month period but where this is exceptionally agreed, there must have been a gap of no less than six weeks between contracts.

Recruitment and selection

Some positions by their nature require the role holders to be from within the University’s student body and under those circumstances a full recruitment exercise (advertising, consultation with the redeployment panel, etc.) will not be required but in the first instance, the decision on whether a variable hours vacancy should be externally (or even internally) advertised or not will be determined by the recruiting line manager and the HR Directorate in consultation. If there are no obvious reasons why a position shouldn’t be advertised then a normal recruitment exercise will be assumed to be appropriate.

Decisions on whether a variable hours role should or should not be advertised will be discussed between line manager and the link HR Manager. The basic assumption will be that recruitment and selection takes place though some positions by their nature are recruited from the student body and those arrangements will continue.


A job description will need to be drawn up for any variable hours position whether advertised or not so that it can be evaluated and the correct hourly rate established.

References and medical clearance will need to be sought for these staff. Where a post is externally advertised the applicants will complete an on line application form in the normal way. Where a post is not externally advertised then the person recruited will need to complete an online Recruitment Form which can be found on the University Job Vacancies page and will be headed "Only for those invited - Variable Hours" which will collect all the required personal details

Proofs of ID and Qualification Verification will still be sought as well as the employees’ right to work in the UK. This is not greatly in addition to that which you have to provide already for casual staff but is no less essential.

Induction, probation and training

Variable hours staff must have a form of managed induction period, just like any other member of staff as by their nature such contracts are for staff that you require on an ongoing basis and so an appropriate induction is essential. This must cover health and safety aspects relevant to the post and the equal opportunities/diversity as well as harassment/bullying elements from the University Code of conduct for staff.

The appropriateness of a variable hours employee undertaking a formal probationary period should be determined on a case by case basis, in advance of making an appointment and in consultation with Human Resources.

All variable hours staff should also have either an individual, or be part of a group PDR with their line manager.

Remuneration and grading

Equal pay for work of equal value has to include all casual and variable hours staff. The duties of these staff will have to be evaluated in the established manner to determine a correct grade and the commensurate salary point from which the hourly rate can be calculated. A job description is therefore essential to this process.

Variable hours staff will also have access to all the same terms and conditions of employment as similar graded employees, even though they are hourly-paid

Staff benefits

Variable hours staff will benefit from the same benefits as those staff on a similar grade e.g. sick pay.

Variable hours staff are paid in lieu of annual leave.

Specific contractual provisions

The variable-hours contract states that no specific minimum number of hours, or pay is guaranteed in any given period and goes on to say that “The hours you work may vary according to the demand for the contracted activities you carry out. This will enable the University to respond to fluctuations in demand. You agree that there may be occasions where no contractual activities are required of you by the University, in which case your hours will be reduced to zero”.

This is to allow the University the maximum flexibility. However, once a schedule/indication of hours has been agreed between the employee and the Faculty, this represents a contractually binding agreement, subject to the flexibility outlined above in their contract.

In the case where permanent variable-hours contracts have been issued but the member of staff is no longer needed then we have included a contractual clause to state “The University will normally terminate this contract, due to redundancy, if you have not been required to work for two consecutive academic years”. This is to prevent the University over time, having an ever increasing pool of variable hours staff being retained.

Line managers have the responsibility for letting Human Resources know which variable hours staff have not been engaged for two years.

Oxford Brookes variable hours staff are not prevented from holding contracts with other employers and do not need permission from the University for such. All variable hours staff will be given at least one week’s notice that they are required for work and are free to reject an offer of work where notice is less than a week.


A variable hours contract will be issued to Oxford Brookes students who are being employed on an hourly-paid basis. To prevent managers from having to request multiple casual contracts for students, who regularly return to casual employment over the course of an academic year, the default position will be that a variable hours contract will be issued. The duration of such a contract will normally be from the beginning of an academic year until near the end: period September to July.

Managers may be able to request a permanent variable hours contract but this will normally require full external advertising first and this should be discussed with the link team within Human Resources. Where such posts are created Human Resources will check to verify ongoing need so this pool of staff is not annually increased too greatly.

Appendix 1

Updated March 2015